Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pilgrims's progress group

Now, I don't do comittees any more. I try not to anyway. Yes I've been on and been chairman, and secretary and dogsbody for eveything from the kids Scouts to Uni mountain club to various school things. I conclude I'm not very patient or terribly tactful as I've never quite figured out that people are not Sherman tanks. I like people (well, in small numbers and not infinite doses) but I lack my co-author Eric's ability to tell people that really they're wrong and actually this will work better, in such a way that they do something totally weird... like listen and bizarrely, agree.

For me a good committee has 2 things. 1)an Egg-timer. 2)A chairman who is Attilla the Hun in his spare time.

But anyway, I got drawn into a meeting / committee on ways to try and help our island progress -- well, keep its population and keep its essential services (like the school). We met tonight, and they need the egg-timer;-). Still, it's interesting to see the ideas. And because my life is dependent on the internet, and we need young families (for whom this is probably one of the best places on earth to raise children, at least to certain age) I asked about the idea that some places with shrinking populations have applied -- to go wireless and cheap/free broadband for their town, to draw internet-related businesses there. People seemed to think it a good concept. Anyone out there had anything to do with this?

And I got to meet a lot of people, some of whom I really wanted to meet (the headmistress -she's a champion) and the Olive growers to name two. And Bill, who I have promised to take to catch squid.


  1. It's been batted about for years with nothing done in my city. San Francisco tried to do it in 2004 and abandoned the project a few years later...they're still trying to find a way.

    One of the problems is that there is too much competition in the frequency bands. Bandwidths double every two years (just like technology in general)and speed increases apportionately.

    The proper way to go seems to be fiber-optics. Which they did in New Orleans after Katrina, but is a no-go here because then the city would be in competition with already established private vendors.

    Being on a island you would probably not have cluttered bandwidths but would face having to upgrade your nodes every two to four years. Might look into Fibre optics.

  2. I have no idea how Flinders Island is connected to the rest of the world but its probably something semi-daft like going via Tasmania and then back to somewhere like Melbourne and then ....

    Free local internet is great as long as the links back to where the servers people want to visit have sufficient bandwidth. I suspect that right now Flinders has a pretty mingy pipe and that even Tasmania has one little better. This is a problem and it will become more of one if people start using the internet more because it's free.

    However that problem is probably fixable with a combination of politics (to politicians who might find a way to dole out money as some kind of "stimulus") and capitalism (to telstra or whoever is the service provider) by guranteeing them some kind of fixed income from the island so long as the higher bandwidth link is available.

    This is just a necessary precondition. The next bit is the actual rolling out of the boradband to the various locations on the island. "Wireless" still requires masts and wires coming from them back to the internet link to the island (and it also needs electricity to be supplied etc etc.). So, even though Flinders isn't a very big island and there aren't many towns/villages, there will be considerable digging required. Now I know Telstra provides some kind of wireless internet already and maybe you can get them to upgrade that but I suspect they can't upgrade it that much without more masts etc. particularly in the more densely populated bits (so digging). Although you might be able to roll out ADSL to people who have landlines, and get them to install wifi routers.

    However I do know that some rural communities in Scandinavia rolled out their own (fiber optic) broadband because they just dug the trenches themselves. It is doable but it requires considerable time and effort from local people plus agreement from regulators/service providers.

    Then there's the question of who pays. TANSTAAFL. Whoever takes your traffic will want paying to transport it even if you can do the local network part yourselves.

  3. @Francis: Well, considering Tasmania is the trial base for the new National Broadband Network it may not be as silly to route via there first. <grin>

    Oz is currently in flux because of disputes over the National Broadband Network between the various political parties. Don't expect much in the way of a decision or assistance from government because of that.

    A lot of country towns have decided to run high capacity backbones to their towns in SA (91% of our population [and thus 99% of the services] is in the capital city of Adelaide), either at their own or partly subsidised cost. They then run air nets/wireless as you are considering (it's cheaper and less troublesome than upgrading infrastructure to any other form). They used either the defunct AirNet (now taken over by Chariot) or Agile Communications (the network carrier part of Internode). I believe they've managed to make a profit doing so (beyond community and political profit).

    But as I said, with the NBN the current setup is a political and commercial football, which means the government assistance that got a lot of the ball rolling in these country hubs has disappeared. Technically the Federal government is expected to provide full service everywhere, but when they will complete the job... (and a change in government will probably kill the NBN partly stillborn).

    Oh, and doing the work yourselves is essentially verbotten by government regulation without being a licensed telco, even if you had the organic technical capacity.

    [We inadvertedly broke the law once by having a data connection between two adjacent buildings. When it was pointed out to us, we solved this incredibly complicated technical problem by borrowing* a length of cable (about 1 foot long), from a friendly telco (that might go by a name mentioned above), and splicing that cable (which was legally was the property of the telco) between the two halves of the cable connecting the buildings. Therefore all our data transmissions between the two adjacent buildings went via the property of a licensed telco, and everyone was happy.]

    [* OK. Legally it was a 99 year lease for A$1, plus an install fee equal to the cost of the cable, but I think that counts as "borrowed."]

  4. @Francis: I would also like to point out that relying on Telstra to do anything, let alone anything in a rural area, is well...

    [Dave's reaction to Telstra is quite restrained, compared to the incompetency that they generally show. Such as forgetting to bill people and then turning off their service when they don't pay the bill that was never sent. And don't get me started on their technical incompetency.]

    Not my favourite telco in the world.

  5. @Reverance P: I only mentioned Telstra because I knew it had a presence on the island. From your comments it looks like the answer is to wait until this NBN thing is clarified and then apply to be a part of it (and make sure that the service provider is NOT telstra).